Tuesday March 17 | U.S. Whitewater Center

March 16, 2009 at 9:35 am | Posted in Coming Up | 21 Comments

The Whitewater Center, regarded as a crown jewel by supporters, is drowning in red ink. Critics say  the business plan was ill-conceived and the center is awash in debt, owing upwards of 38 million dollars. We’ll talk with the Executive Director of the Center, a member of the US Olympic Committee that sees the center as a valuable resource, and to a County Commissioner with a whole new plan to try and save the center.
Jeff Wise – Executive Director, Whitewater Center
David Yarborough – CEO, USA Canoe/Kayak & member, US Olympic Committee
Bill James – County Commissioner, 6th District

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  1. -Has the half million dollars in consulting fees produced “naming rights” revenue? How’s that effort going, any bites? What kind of money are we talking about?
    -What will happen after 2013 when counties and cities have paid their entire $13 million dollar commitment?
    -I think Bill James is correct (and Parks Helms likely agrees) that the best move by Mecklenburg County is a balloon payment to creditors to write off construction loans, followed by relaunch as a county facility is the best move. Of course Mr. Wise and his management team and the consultants would have to be let go. Promotion budget would be cut back too.
    -Where is the US Olympic Committee in all of this? Can’t they help?
    -$33 is too much for a raft ride for one person and $5 to park out in the country to buy an overpriced sanwich and drink is crazy for working people. With our mountain rivers here in NC, with local lake and river access aquatic recreation is plentiful without the whitewater center. I also worry about rafting in sewage treatment plant and industrial discharge, so I prefer the mountains.
    -38 million debt (plus interest) for something that takes in so little is a hopeless situation. County and city budgets can’t cover this in the middle of a depression. Goodbye kayak boys!

    • what covenants have not been met resulting in default? can those be cured without repayment of debt?

      are there unique covenants for this facility or based on non-profit status?

    • Jack, the white water park is a closed-circuit course filled with Charlotte TAP water & on-site wells. You must have went straight instead of turning left at the guard gate and ended up paddling in the CMU sewage treatment lift station back there.

  2. I used to go to the Whitewater Center to eat at the restaurant and watching the rafters. I will not go now that I have to pay just to park. I know a lot of people who think this is a mistake and that the prices for rafting have gone up too much.

  3. The Whitewater Center is Charlotte’s truly “world-class” facility. More than basketball or other activities, we are are in a VERY small group with this opportunity.

    It is a destination to draw the out-of-town teams for an extended period, as well as repeat local visitors. That’s a claim Discovery Place or the NASCAR Hall can’t make.

    It’s more important that we spend the (small) amount of money to pay this off than the hundreds of millions spent on other sports venues with fickle, FOR PROFIT, tenants.

  4. This may be a comparison of apples and bananas, but I can’t help but think the indoor water park Great Wolf Lodge in Concord is going to hurt Whitewater Center numbers evenn more this season. It’s more of a family thing, and indoors.

  5. What are the USNWC and US Canoe Kayak doing to build youth participation in outdoor recreation, particularly minority youth? Have you recruited any sponsors to build youth leagues? What are you doing to build paddlesports, rock climbing and mountain biking? Also, to what extent are you working with CMS to provide environmental education? Is that still part of your business plan?

  6. Not for profit? The 2 guys running the facility make $250,000 collectively.

  7. Almost no 501 C3 can pay debt service!

    It should have never been built on debt.

    Did the operating budgets include the money from the counties or was it earned inome?

    What is the brake down of the budget? % contributed % earned % Gov.

  8. We should be ashamed of ourselves for getting into this. Just another example of another bad decision… it’s an empidemic. Let’s just let someone else foot the bill…. like I said, we should be ashamed!!!!

  9. I fell in love with the USNWC my first trip. I even attended a whitewater guide training class (but couldn’t work there due to my ‘day’ job).

    I bring my kids there to play, hike, and enjoy the outdoors. I bought a annual parking pass last year and this (though I only get out infrequently) to show my support.

    With the small marketing budget, I think more effort should be spent on ‘guerrilla’ marketing, using twitter, facebook, and other platforms more effectively (they are used, but are updated infrequently). These could help to reach and encourage enthusiastic supports who may be able to help save the center.

  10. Fellow Americans, we are in a time of turmoil. Hard working Americans, all over this country: policemen, teachers and plumbers are loosing their jobs, and loosing their homes. As I will highlight in this essay, the ideals of US National Whitewater Center and companies like it are responsible for this dire economic crisis. We are loosing grip on the American Dream but we need not let go. America, I am convinced that by returning to the ideals and morals that made this the greatest country in the world we can regain control.

    For those readers who don’t know of the un-american atrocities perpetuated by the US National Whitewater Center I present the following as a direct quotation from their website:

    “Located on the banks of the Catawba River in Charlotte, N.C., the U.S. National Whitewater Center is the world’s largest artificial whitewater river and an official U.S. Olympic Training Site. The USNWC is a locally owned and operated non-profit dedicated to promoting healthy, active, outdoor lifestyles. Opened in August 2006 at a cost of $38 million, the 307-acre public adventure-sport facility includes whitewater rafting and kayaking, mountain biking and hiking trails, a climbing center and a ropes course, along with a 2,400 square-foot conference center and 300-seat River’s Edge Bar & Grill” (www.usnwc.org).

    America was made on guns, God, low taxes and most importantly unrestricted, unfettered free-market capitalism. USNWC undermines these founding principles and is degrading the fabric of America. USNWC is a non-profit. Being not for profit is about as American as being not for baseball. What makes America, and American companies great, is their ruthless pursuit of profits. As a non-profit USNWC is, essentially teaching our children socialism, putting quality of life before the bottom line. Along with other non-profits like Public Radio and UNICEF the Whitewater Center is teaching our youth bad ethics and undermining the real America. Socialists, will try to hide their true intent (a free ride for the lazy), under a guise of the betterment of mankind – America, we can’t let them get away with this!

    To this end, I have developed a fool-proof process to spot socialism at work: First, and obviously, if the company is not for profit it is a hotbed for dangerously radical social ideas and therefore is un-american; Second, if the company is loosing money and gets (or asks) for any money from the government then the company is socialist and therefore is un-american; Third, if the companies do anything to undermine the inner-workings of the free market economy then that company or group is socialist and again is un-american. For your edification, I have comprised a small list of these un-american companies: US National Whitewater Center, Public Radio, UNICEF, Bank of America, Ford, Wachovia, all hedge funds, Washington Mutual, AIG, Bear-Sterns, Canada, Jim Cramer, Goldman-Sacks, Wall Street, and Allan Greenspan. Only by working together can we undo the harm that these agents have brought to our shores. Remember America – Yes we can.

    Fear not. America has been behind in the Game before and America has always been triumphant. America was the first to put a man on the moon, she is the winner of every war, the inventor of the atom bomb and the tail-gate party, home to the finest universities in the world, and the only country to play the man’s version of football. We can beat the socialists, but to win, it is not enough to be able to spot a socialist we must be able to capture and contain them so they can do no further harm to this great country.

    Should you spot a socialist, just follow this capture, release, rehabilitation process. To capture a socialist in the Charlotte area, you need to go to there favorite hang-outs, try Whole Foods, USNWC, REI, or Starbucks. Once spotted you must, lure them into the back of your pick-up with the promise of free yoga class, organic locally grown beat root, a chi tea latte, or universal Medicare. Once you have captured a socialist you must rehabilitate them; tie them up in your basement and carefully explain to them the importance of individual freedom and the power of the free market. Then make them watch a full day of FOX News, listen to Rush Limbaugh’s radio program, and then make them read anything by Ayn Rand. After this intensive deprograming the socialists will be cured and fit for release back into society.

    Under this program, USNWC still has time. They can turn the center around with a return to the principles of the free market, namely survival of the fittest and pursuit of profits. They must turn the whitewater park into a Wonka inspired hunting ground of poor children. The new Wonka Adventure Park/ Hunting Ground would exchange the water in the river for lard (sponsored by McDonald’s). The climbing wall to chocolate topped soda fountain (by Coke). The running trails for escalators with TV’s (by Sony), and Lazyboys (by Lazyboy of course), we wouldn’t want them getting fast or sinewy by running. Only the fattest, poorest children would be selected to visit the new WonkaWater park. These children, who without opportunity to engage in activity, will become a gross and heavy burden on the now socialist heath-care program of this country. The center would help to re-privatize health-care, gleaming profits by removing these liabilities (children) from the system by allowing the arms bearing locals to shoot fat, slow and feeble ones.

    Some of the children would inevitably survive, even after months of being hunted, these children will be deemed “winners” and reinstated into America. Of course most will not, the very fat kids will be the most desirable in that they will be both tender and juicy; they will also be big, slow and docile and therefore easy to shoot. The center could charge a “super-size” premium to both the Medicare and the hunters for this as they are removing a larger potential burden and making the hunter’s job easier. With these only modest alterations to the center, even the runt children (those under 10 years of age and 120lbs) would after rafting on a river of lard quickly be game worthy as well.

    Thus, by returning to the pillars of America USNWC can both turn a profit and be a modal company. We can lift America from this economic crisis by fighting socialism and all those who practice it. Friends, the road will be long but together, we will prevail.

    • Dont forget to add water boarding to your plan to convert the socialists

  11. “she is the winner of every war, the inventor of the atom bomb and the tail-gate party, home to the finest universities in the world, and the only country to play the man’s version of football.”

    1. Vietnam. They are still communist today.
    2. Oxford. One of the best universities.
    3. Europe had some football teams in NFL Europa.

    If you can’t get your facts straight, then why bother posting them as facts?

    Also, taking over the park for your idea is still pretty socialist, and the whole reason behind the government supporting it is to make sure that it is still an asset to the community. If we just gave up on it, the banks that were lending the money for the USNWC would have a whitewater park that they wouldn’t do anything with. Would you spend $13 million to save the other $25 million?

    “The center would help to re-privatize health-care, gleaming profits by removing these liabilities (children) from the system by allowing the arms bearing locals to shoot fat, slow and feeble ones.”

    So you’re saying that we should completely avoid the law enforcement, by allowing people to commit murder to kill fat children? In the first paragraph, you said “policemen, teachers and plumbers are loosing their jobs, and loosing their homes.” First, learn to spell, since it should have been “losing”, not “loosing”. Second, if there is nothing for the law enforcement to do when you are allowed to kill people and get away with it, they will end up losing jobs. Third, plumbers will almost always have jobs, since you can’t really live in this day and age without functional plumbing.

  12. You can list the facts all day and make complaints but that’s all you are doing. How about voicing a creative way to fix things instead blowing ALL your hot air listing something that the public already knows.

    Currently the entire world,YES that means ALL of US are in a crisis. It’s not just the USNWC’s fault it’s mine and yours, but hey let’s turn the blame to someone else because we’re to big to admit our mistakes. BOO HOO! ;( How about this; the $5.00 for parking is probably the amount you spent on a small fastfood lunch today or buying a useless piece of junk you could live without. $5 is nothing to most of you who are responsible for the world’s crisis but when you have to spend something as minor as parking you go crazy.

    Plus another thing; the USNWC get’s you off you fat lazy seat and outside.

    Look at the positives people.

  13. Pretty simple … fire Jeff and that idiot Lance who handles Marketing. He couldn’t sucessfully market a lemonade stand on a hot July day.

  14. Something that has not been mentioned much is how many jobs has the USNWC created. There are many people that work at the center that come from Gaston Co. and Meck. Co. In this economy I think that should be another asset to the area. Much needed jobs are being created. I suggest to everyone who is complaining about it being a money pit is go out there and support it, eat at the restaurant enjoy being outside, walk or ride the trails, try paddling, tell your friends and family. You will be the more healthier for it. Get outside and enjoy your life!

  15. The US National Whitewater Center is a valuable resource for the greater Charlotte area. While it is easy to look at all the negatives, there are many positives as well.

    -It provides seasonal employment for 200-300 people throughout the summer, most of whom are high school and college students.

    -It has summer camps and activities for children, providing one of the few out-door oriented summer day care programs.

    -It is a tourist attraction, bringing in people (and their money) from the US, Canada, Mexico, and other countries just to train there. Last week there was even a team from Czechoslovakia out there.

    -It provides a place for people to learn about and train for river rafting and kayaking close to home. It can run all summer, which is more than can be said for all of the other NC rivers in this drought. Even the Green River has been cutting back on releases.

    -The summer concert series on Thursday nights provide a nice local place to enjoy music with some friends, with only a $5 cover (parking). That is a better deal than many uptown bars.

    -It promotes exercise and healthy living, which is something our city certainly needs a little bit more of. There is no smoking anywhere at the park, and the restaurant uses better ingredients in their food than most similarly-priced restaurants.

    Does it have problems? Sure, but what business doesn’t these days.
    Was it expensive? Yes. Will it cost the city and local counties more money (which they’ve already agreed to) before it’s over with? Yes. Can it ultimately make money and become profitable? Yes. Do the benefits justify the startup cost? IMO, yes. They just need some time to refine their business strategy and fix their marketing department.

    The City also spent millions on an uptown arena and a NASCAR Museum. They continue to spend millions to build and maintain public parks throughout the city, which have almost no income whatsoever. This is just another project the City has spent money on to help encourage growth, tourism, and enjoyment for the community.

    If you want this place to stop needing tax money, then you need to support it, get the word out, and help it succeed. If it closes now all of that money spent already was a waste. This site is a great resource for our community, let’s help make it work!

  16. All you capitalists, please continue your frantic paddling against the current. I will go with the flow.

    I agree that this is not a popularly solicited entertainment but a minority mode of recreation imposed from above by a self-interested elite. How many can realistically dream of Olympic glory? We don’t need to win the rich boys’ games anymore than we need a person on the Moon. It’s all ego. It’s the same water we were already playing in. The main thing they added was a price tag.

    What’s the electric load on those gigantic pumps? Do they get a good rate? How much tap water does USNWC use after recycling? It must splash out and evaporate. Are they paying their water bill? What impact do they have in a drought? Why did they have to be near the river if they don’t use the water? I loved hearing those guys fighting for their $100K salaries with Mike barking up the tree.

    nate: You have written an hilarious parody? Definitely way over the top! Let’s tear up them communist sidewalks and bomb them Bolshevik libraries, toll booth the school halls and put a meter on teachers’ mouths. Don’t forget your “Johnny Cash” for the pay toilet. You have truly proven that global corporate capitalism is hell on earth.

  17. I heard rumor that the white water park was closing. False or true?
    The staff are too young to run such a big place and they need older adults to supervise and show a presence, otherwise, it turns into one big party. I heard from a river guide that most of the staff was sleeping out in tents in the back fields, drinking at night and then taking folks into the whitewater during the day. Is that safe? Shouldn’t there be drug and alcohol testing done regularly. Sorry to ruin the fun, boys and girls, but when I went, our guide purposely tipped the raft and engaged in “cowboy” mentality, even telling us he was in love with one of the other guides. Did we need to know that? He divulged that he would be getting plastered that evening.

    • you are a wiener XD

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